Indianapolis Motor Speedway remembers Johnny Carson

Carson Drove Memorable, Quick Laps Around Speedway in 1967 INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Jan. 24, 2005 -- As the legendary host of "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson was renowned for being quick with a witty one-liner either in his monologues or while ...

Indianapolis Motor Speedway remembers Johnny Carson

Carson Drove Memorable, Quick Laps Around Speedway in 1967

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Jan. 24, 2005 -- As the legendary host of "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson was renowned for being quick with a witty one-liner either in his monologues or while interviewing guests.

Less well-known was that Carson also was pretty quick in a race car around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Carson, who became an American icon as host of "The Tonight Show" from 1962-92, died Jan. 23 at age 79. Among the many celebrities whose careers he helped launch included comedian Dave Letterman, who has gone on to similar fame as a late-night talk show host and co-owns the car that Buddy Rice drove to victory in the 2004 Indianapolis 500.

In 1967, STP President and Indianapolis 500 team owner Andy Granatelli invited Carson to the Speedway to drive the famed turbine-powered "whooshmobile" race car. STP was a major sponsor of "The Tonight Show" at the time, and Granatelli said he was a guest on the show "seven or eight times."

Granatelli and famed drivers Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones and Rodger Ward welcomed Carson to the track. The drivers showed Carson the racing line in a few trips around the historic 2.5-mile oval in a passenger car.

Andretti asked Carson during the laps, "Now, you see where those tire skid marks go up into the wall?"

"Yes," Carson replied.

"That's NOT the groove!" Andretti then told Carson, in a story that Carson shared with his "Tonight Show" viewers during an ensuing monologue.

Then it was time to let Carson loose on the track in the STP Turbine that Jones drove to sixth in the Indianapolis 500 that year, leading 171 of the 200 laps before a bearing failed.

Carson then drove three or four laps around the oval, with a top lap speed of 138 mph, Granatelli said.

"He adapted very well," said Donald Davidson, Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian. "That doesn't seem that fast now, but it took 162 mph to make the race those days."

The slowest qualifying speed among the 33 starters in 1967 was 162.543 mph.

Carson's speedy hot laps didn't surprise Granatelli.

"That car was so good and easy to drive," Granatelli said. "All you had to do was point and steer."

Granatelli said he stayed in touch with Carson until only a few months before his death.

"He was a cool guy," Granatelli said.

***

Indy 500 tickets: To purchase tickets, camping or parking for the 89th Indianapolis 500, contact the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.

-ims-

shares
comments
2005 World Series by Renault final calendar
Previous article

2005 World Series by Renault final calendar

Next article

ALLSTAR: 2005 All Star Sprint Car schedule

ALLSTAR: 2005 All Star Sprint Car schedule
Load comments
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Prime

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

General
May 20, 2021
Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth Prime

Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth

Jean Todt has signalled that he will not stand for re-election as FIA president. Mark Gallagher analyses the strong credentials of one potential successor…

General
May 2, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Prime

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be.

General
Apr 21, 2021
The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction Prime

The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction

The forthcoming Netflix film linking the world of underworld crime and motorsport plays on a theme that isn't exactly new. Over the years, several shady figures have attempted to make it in racing before their dubious dealings caught up with them.

General
Jan 31, 2021
The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home Prime

The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home

Keeping trophies and momentos of key triumphs is par for the course for motorsport professionals, but what are the most cherished souvenirs picked up by the drivers and engineers who have seen and done it all?

General
Dec 26, 2020
Why motorsport should consider a mid-week future Prime

Why motorsport should consider a mid-week future

International motorsport has been the preserve of weekends, but the pandemic forced Formula E to get creative with its Berlin season finale as four races were held mid-week. Should FE and other series break with tradition and repeat the experiment?

General
Oct 5, 2020
How pragmatic principles made Ron Tauranac a design legend Prime

How pragmatic principles made Ron Tauranac a design legend

Jack Brabham's 1966 world championship campaign in his eponymous car was also a defining moment in the career of designer Ron Tauranac, who would apply the same ethos to his ultra-successful production racing car business, Ralt.

General
Jul 23, 2020
The ingrained failure motorsport must fix to avoid 'turf wars' Prime

The ingrained failure motorsport must fix to avoid 'turf wars'

OPINION: The FIA has warned that the major motorsport championships must not get engaged in 'turf wars' when it comes to the urgent need to re-organising the 2020 calendars, but there are tedious past problems that must be addressed to satisfy all.

General
May 3, 2020